Backlash Over the New Bachelorette: Taylor Lindsay
On Monday, May 22, the premiere of The Bachelorette 2017 aired. After 33 seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”, ABC named the first African American to headline their hit dating show; she is also the oldest. At 32 years old, Rachel Lindsay is an attorney from Dallas, and is ready to find love from a pool of 31 men, ranging in different ethnicities and ages. Although last season’s Bachelor, Nick Viall wasn’t Mr. Right, Lindsay seems to be very hopeful with this group of suitors.
Although the show is becoming more diverse after 15 years, this doesn’t mean its’ viewers and contestants are any more “enlightened” or racially sensitive. On the first episode, the contestants are given the task to make a lasting first impression. One contestant, Dean, who is also white, introduced himself by saying “I’m ready to go black, and I’m never gonna go back.” Viewers went to Twitter to express their disbelief on his remark. "This is already a dumpster fire," wrote one viewer while another demanded "Don't turn Rachel's season into corny race cliches - she deserves better!"
Not only did Twitter lash out because of this contestant’s comment, but they also destroyed Newsweek for filing a short piece on Tuesday, entitled “Unlike New ‘Bachelorette’ Rachel Lindsay, Single Black Women Rarely Date Outside Their Race.” Newsweek proclaimed Lindsay made history by kissing the Colombian suitor, Bryan Abasolo. They went on to highlight how black women are less likely to marry outside of their race compared to black men. The publication deleted the article a day after it was published, but Twitter had already made their annoyance known. What the writer failed to include was that research on online dating shows that black women are less likely to receive responses when they attempt to contact potential matches of other races. Many critics refused to read past the headline to later realize the writer was a black woman, discussing her own experience. Twitter made the article even more controversial by making it a “Twitter moment,” presenting it to millions of users. The magazine wrote in a tweet Wednesday, “Newsweek has removed a story posted on May 23 about the Bachelorette. We apologize for any offense it caused.”
This being the first African American starring in the show, it is obvious there are more black viewers tuning in this season. While the mainstream may ignore black girl magic, there are many other media outlets that have recently been showcasing the beauty and allure of Black women. During the premiere, Pantene made it their agenda to air an ad that celebrates natural hair. The narrator of the ad says, “We are proudly born with hair that grows as strong as a storm, and doesn’t conform to a beauty norm that isn’t our own." Many went to Twitter to thank the company for opposing the beauty standard and representing all Black women. Others pointed out how ABC’s push for diversity will make other brands lead to more diversity.
Even though the field of men are the most diverse in franchise history, there are still only 11 black suitors present. One of the black men noted how diverse the pool of suitors was, but unfortunately there was an awkward moment where the episode ended with contestants freestyle rapping. It may not be wise to be hopeful for a “power black couple” ending. Another standout moment was at the end of the episode where they played a preview of the season, showing Lindsay asking a suitor if he had ever taken a black girl home to meet his parents. His answer was not revealed, but his uncomfortable body language said it all. If you are looking for the “reality TV soap opera” to boost its’ stance on culture and class, then this is still not the show for you. This season may be experience raving views because of its’ new racial dynamics, but it makes you wonder if the views would be the same for a middle class bachelorette with natural hair.